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Cheltenham Literature Festival

Last Friday, 15th October, the Severn Vale School English Department had arranged for 90 students, ranging from year groups 7-10, to attend the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

40 Year 7 students had tickets to see the author Kereen Getten with her show “Island Life”. This was based on her book called “When Life Gives You Mangos.” This book was inspired by the author’s childhood experiences growing up in the Caribbean. The book explores themes of family life, a sense of community and grief, as well as delving into the complexities of childhood. The students were engaged the whole way through and even had the chance to ask Kereen Getten questions. The Year 7 group jumped at the opportunity, asking lots of interesting questions. Students also had the option to purchase the book, which Kereen Getten signed at the end of the show.

25 Year 8 students enjoyed their time at the Festival with “The Hot Poets”; band of poets, mixing freestyle music and poetry. Their show was called “Tongue Fu” and they explained the definition as free styling poetry. This was an engaging and fun experience for the year 8 students as the poets would ask the crowd for different genres of music and then mash them together to make a funky soundtrack for the lead poet to then use and improvise his poetry. Students were keen to suggest a mash-up of “Drill” music, classical music and reggae and the poets did not disappoint. The theme for this show was based on climate change and the band had introduced other poets into the show who are also climate change activists. It was inspirational, engaging, fun and a great way to get young people to learn about issues around the world. One of our year 8 students said “It was fun, I can’t wait to come to the literature festival again next year”.

Finally, 25 Year 9 students went to see the author Dean Atta showcasing his book titled “The Black Flamingo”. The fictional book follows the theme of LGBTQIA+. The story of The Black Flamingo follows Michael through his young life, his journey of self-discovery and finding his place in the world. The issues of family, belonging, LGBT, drag and coming of age were covered in the story. Atta made it very clear that this is a book that he wishes he could have read when he was at school, and the experience of being in the black community and in the LGBT, community provided inspiration for the work. There was a real event of a black flamingo being spotted and that provided a huge inspiration boost for Atta. After Atta finished reading extracts from his book he took questions from the audience. Our students were very eager and involved in this section and asked lots of questions ranging from “How did you come out as gay?” to “Where did your inspiration come from” and “If you were a character in a book who would you be?”.

The feedback from all staff and students was very positive and all students said they would definitely go to the Literature Festival again next year.